Afraid Of Cantering ? Overcome Your Fear With These 10 Tricks

Take small but positive steps as you work towards reaching your goal every day
Take small but positive steps as you work towards reaching your goal every day

There’s a common misconception that only novice riders experience fear in the saddle. However, that certainly isn’t the case. In fact, from time to time, every rider will inevitably experience some anxiety, no matter whether they’re a professional, amateur, dressage rider, or show jumper. So, if you’re nervous about cantering your horse, you certainly don’t need to feel that you’re alone. All riders feel afraid every now and then, and the good news, though, is that you can get over your fears eventually.

The secret to success lies in taking the right approach

There’s a lot of reasons why you may be struggling with cantering, but the power to overcome your fears lies in your own hands. So, don’t let your worries get you down – instead, try these 10 top tricks and tips to try to help you feel more comfortable and confident about transitioning to a canter. 

1.Start Off Small
This one is just for beginners, but it’s a useful tip to keep in mind at every stage of your journey to become a better rider – don’t try to run before you can walk. Literally, in the case of horse riding! If you’re a novice rider who’s struggling to canter, the best thing you can do is learn to manage your expectations. Don’t set yourself goals that feel too challenging to achieve. When it comes to cantering, instead of trying to canter the full arena circuit, aim for two or three strides to begin with. 

Set yourself an expectation to simply experience the canter initially. Familiarise yourself with the way it feels. Start to become comfortable with remaining balanced, in control, and secure. As your confidence increases, you’ll be able to keep your horse in canter for longer.

2.Increase Your Pace
The first thing to think about is your level of comfort when your horse is moving actively. Whether you’re a novice or a more experienced rider, if you don’t really feel completely comfortable with speeding up to a trot, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to feel comfortable with a canter. Don’t worry, though, as this is something you can improve with time and practice. 
Work on becoming more accustomed to more powerful trotting before you even start trying to canter. You want to feel completely confident and comfortable with your horse at a trotting pace before you try to speed up further. 
A good starting point is to practice increasing your trotting pace from working trot to a medium more powerful trot before returning to a working trot once more. Practice makes perfect, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to take things up a notch. 

Build up your confidence so you feel completely comfortable when your horse moves more actively.

3.Riding Transitions
You’ll already know that one of the most crucial elements of riding is transitions, but simply knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to come through them. Again, confidence is key. You need to be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared for the transition to cantering, and the only way to achieve that is to practice, practice, practice! 
Work on both indirect and direct transitions between walking, trotting, and halting. That’ll help you prepare so that when the time comes for transitioning to cantering you’ll ace it. 

Work to achieve engaged and active transitions between halting, walking, and trotting, and vice-versa. That will ensure your horse is listening effectively to you.

4.Learn The Right Aids For Cantering
If you’re a newcomer to cantering, it goes without saying that you’ll need to learn the right aids so your horse gets the right message about what you need him to do. But even more experienced riders can benefit from going back over which aids they’re using. You need to communicate clearly with your horse, so spend some time on perfecting the aids you need for cantering so there’ll be no mixed messages. 


5.Watch A More Experienced Rider Cantering Your Horse 
Learning by doing is certainly a tried and tested method, but sometimes, it pays to just sit back for a bit and learn by watching. Watching an experienced rider cantering your horse can help you pinpoint the best techniques to use. It’s also a great way to visualise and grasp the footfalls of your horse whilst they’re cantering. You’ll have the time to look closely at what’s happening when the horse transitions to cantering without having to be in the saddle yourself – with the pressure off, you’ll really be able to focus on what works. 

Talk to the rider about how they’re achieving transitions – what they’re feeling through their seat when cantering and how your horse feels to them.

6.Take Lunge Lessons 
Lunge lessons are only a tool for beginners, right? Absolutely not! In fact, lunging lessons can be incredibly helpful if you’re struggling with cantering, helping you improve your security and balance.

If you canter on the lunge, you can focus effectively on your aids, balance, and position, while your riding coach maintains control over your horse. That means you’ll have less to think about.

7.Don't Forget To Breathe!
Forgetting to breathe isn't going to do you any favours at the best of times, and certainly not when you're riding. A surprising number of riders are concentrating so hard when they're in the saddle that they don't realise they're unintentionally holding their breath. Apart from being very uncomfortable for you, it won't help your horse either. If they detect you're no longer breathing, they're going to think something's gone wrong, and that's going to make them uneasy.

Try to breathe out slowly through your mouth while making your transition to cantering and you'll feel more relaxed.

8.Invest In More Horse Training
When horses are inexperienced or have never been properly trained to transition well to cantering, you can't expect them to effortlessly canter without further help. Ask a skilled rider to help you with training so that they can accept the right aids for cantering.

A BHS-qualified coach is the best choice to work with you to help you improve your skills.

9.Make Use Of Visualisation
It might sound far-fetched, but in fact many riders find that visualisation works wonders when it comes to boosting their confidence during cantering. For this trick to work, though, you have to add in plenty of detail. Focus on how you'd like to feel, and what you'd like to hear and see during cantering. Creating a really positive story, with no negatives in the visualisation will help you get in the right mindset for success.

The human mind responds well to imagery. Shut your eyes from time to time when you aren't in the saddle and practice transitioning your horse to a canter.

10.Take Cantering At The Right Pace For You
We've all been guilty at some point of feeling as if we should have reached a goal by a certain stage and of being disappointed in ourselves for not achieving that aim. But pushing yourself and your horse too hard is a bad idea. Rest assured, you'll both get there eventually, and it's far more important to feel prepared and confident when starting to canter.

Take small but positive steps as you work towards reaching your goal every day. As your confidence increases, you're going to really enjoying cantering, I promise!